Abraham: Faith that Does Not Know Where It is Going

There are only two ways to live.

  • We can base our decisions on what we see around us, trusting in ourselves to interpret and react correctly. We can look to our empirical senses to tell us what is best for us.
  • The other way, far less common, is to base our decisions by trusting in what God has said, and to look to the things that we cannot see.  This is the essence of the Christian’s lifestyle. We have not seen God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the apostles, heaven or hell, or even an original manuscript of the Bible. Yet we live in conviction of these things by faith.   We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) That is what these lessons are about.

I.    Abraham: A True Man of Faith. Perhaps no one, save Christ, embodies the full meaning of faith more than the patriarch Abraham. The Bible quickly identifies Abraham, then called Abram, as a man of faith.  Genesis 15:66 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Throughout the history of Israel, Abraham is viewed as the “father of the faithful”. He is central to the story of God’s people.

  • Isaiah calls Abraham, “the rock” from which Israel was hewn, and “the quarry” from which they were dug (Isaiah 51:1). It was the covenant that God made with Abraham that anticipated and promised the coming of Christ (the seed through which the world would be blessed  – Gal. 3:16). Christians today are described in the N.T. as the spiritual heirs of the promise made to Abraham.

The Faith of Abraham as a type:

A. Both Paul and James reference the faith of Abraham as typical of the faith God has always desired and expected of His people.  His faith was comprehensive, and thus was accounted to him for righteousness.

1.   To those who wanted to find their salvation in the law of Moses, and return to that law as a means of justification, Paul references Abraham  as an example of justification by faith, not perfect law keeping: Rom 4:16 – Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all … All men, like Abraham are justified by trusting in God.

2.   To those who would define faith as just believing apart from obedience, James references Abraham’s faith as the classic example of faith that obeys God: James 2:19-22 – 9 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?

B.  Abraham was reared in the city of Ur (Genesis 11:27-31), in the land of the Chaldeans. The city of Ur was located in Mesopotamia at the intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates River. It was dedicated to Nannar, the moon god. Nannar’s temple was in the center of the city, along with colossal Ziggurat that was dedicated to her honor.

  • Nannar was considered the king and the landlord of the people In the book Archaeology and the Old Testament by Unger, it is said that the moon god “owned their farms, their shops and their wealth.”

1.  The scriptures tell us in Joshua 24:2 that Abraham’s father,  Terah, “served other gods.”  It is unusual to find children that do not follow their parents in the course of their religion. Although  Abraham was born in a city of idolaters and was raised by an idolater, he chose to serve Jehovah.

II.  God’s Call –   According to Stephen, God called Abraham to leave his family while he was still living in Ur.  Acts 7:2-42 And he said,”Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’  4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell. We might be able to reason why God did not want Abraham to stay in Ur. God was calling him away from the wickedness that surrounded him and his family. But God’s sanctifying purposes are deeper than just Abraham’s environment.  This call was a test of faith.

A.  After the death of his father , God called Abraham again.  Genesis 12:1 – Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.

III.  Abraham’s Response  – How did Abraham respond? Hebrews 11:8 – 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. This is our theme verse for this month. It describes a faith that obeys God even when it does not know where it is going.  Abraham was walking by faith, not by sight.     John MacArthur calls Abraham the “most strategic example of faith”. The writer of Hebrews cannot teach us about faith without a close look at Abraham. He walked by faith, was justified by faith, and died in faith. What can we learn from Hebrews 11 about the faith of Abraham?

A.  “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out… ” (Heb. 11:8) How do we know that Abraham believed God?  That is an easy question. He obeyed.  Obedience is a recurring concept in Hebrews 11, and an inescapable characteristic of true faith.

1.  In the Greek language, “he was called” is a present participle, and thus could be translated, “as he was called”. When did Abraham obey?  As soon as he was called. He was packing to go at the first words of God.  There was no reluctance or hesitation.  There was no arguing or rationalizing.

a.  This type of implicit obedience does not appear out of nowhere. Abraham had absolute confidence in God’s words.  Implicit and complete obedience is born out of real faith. Abrahm did not just agree with God; he trusted God. We will see how this is indicated later.

b.  In the same way, disobedience is the fruit of disbelief.  What was the first thing that Satan ever attempted to get men and women to do?   Read  Gen 3:1-5Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Satan wanted Eve to doubt God’s word –  To disbelieve the full truthfulness of God’s commandment. Satan understood, and still does, that sinful conduct begins in disbelief. Adam & Eve could be led to sin if they were convinced that God did not speak the truth.

c.  The effort to strengthen our faith or confidence in God’s words is not just an intellectual pursuit. We must learn to live by faith, or we will fall through disobedience.

  • Heb 3:12-14Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;  but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,
  • Heb 3:18-19to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

B.   “he went out, not knowing where he was going.” – Abraham was not motivated to leave Ur or Haran because it appeared to be the most logical thing to do. He did not have a well ordered plan of his own. He was simply following the directions of God – not knowing what was ahead.

1.   Was his faith blind? In a sense,  yes.  He was not blind to the reality of God, or His character. He was taking a shot in the dark, knowing nothing. He knew God, and he believed Him.  We have already studied about the intellectual aspect of faith – faith is the evidence of things not seen. But God calls us to faith that is blind, in that we cannot know what lies ahead. We must trust in God to lead – As a child trusts in his father and mother to provide.

  • Prov 3:5-75 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.

C.  Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house. He was called to leave Ur behind.  The call of God in Gen. 12 was specific:  Genesis 12:1-3 – “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. How difficult was this?

1.  Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be enrolled is a witness protection program?  How could you leave your family and never contact them again?  It would be difficult to be convinced that I had to completely sever the relationship.

a.   God does not call on me to sever all my relationships with the my family or people of the world. That not the point here. But God does call on me to separate myself from sin. The call of faith demands it.

b.  The promises to Abraham are foundational to our own redemption. Even in the embryonic stages of God’s plan there is a call for sanctification. To dwell with God requires a separation.  2 Cor 6:14-18 – Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” 17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” 18 ‘I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”

c.  When the Abrahamic promises were being consummated in the coming of Christ and His kingdom, the preceding message from the voice of Jesus Himself was “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. (Matt. 4:4)

d. What is God calling you to leave behind?  Are you willing to walk by faith?

Conclusion: In lessons to follow we look closer at Abraham’s faithful obedience to leave his home and become a pilgrim and stranger for God. We will see how God tested his faith beyond comprehension, and how he trusted God above everything else.  He walked by faith.  Will you begin the journey today?

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